Monday, February 13, 2017

Women's Tennis Falls Just Short at Wake Forest

The Liberty women's tennis team hung close with a strong Wake Forest squad on Saturday at the Wake Forest Tennis Complex but ultimately lost, 4-0.

Liberty drops to 2-2 with the loss, while Wake Forest moves to 8-2 with the win in the first-ever meeting between the two schools. The Demon Deacons also shut out William & Mary, 7-0, Saturday morning.

The home side took the doubles point to gain an early 1-0 lead on the Lady Flames. Both No. 1 and No. 2 doubles matches went to the Demon Deacons and were decided by a few deuce points lost by Liberty.

The No. 1 match wrapped up first, with Kimmy Guerin and Anna Ulyashchenko taking down the Lady Flames' Rebekah Anderson and Aleksandra Panchenko, 6-3. The Demon Deacons' pairing of Emma Davis and Chandler Carter also prevailed, 6-3, over Liberty's Anna Dollar and Evangeline Crist.

In the final doubles match (No. 3), Liberty's Mariely Hassey and Emily Groeneveld were on the cusp of winning over Joanna Zalewski and Courtney Meredith. The two seniors led, 5-4, before the match went unfinished.

Singles play started out in favor of the home side as well. No. 53 Guerin needed just two sets to top Anderson (6-4, 6-2) at No. 1 singles. No. 70 Davis needed three sets to take down Panchenko in the No. 2 slot. After dropping the first set, Panchenko won set two, 6-2, before Davis took the final set to win (6-1, 2-6, 6-0). The victory gave Wake Forest a 3-0 lead.

Saturday marked the first time this season the Lady Flames faced two players ranked inside the top 125 of the ITA women's singles rankings on one team.

The crucial match was at No. 5 singles, Carter (Wake Forest) vs. Groeneveld. Groeneveld fell, 6-4, in set one but led 5-3 and 40-0 in set two. However, Carter mounted a furious comeback to take the game and eventually set up a tiebreaker with the Liberty senior. Carter prevailed, 7-1, in that tiebreaker, to win her match (6-4, 7-6 (1)) and end the match with a 4-0 score.

Had Groeneveld forced a third set, it would have kept the match alive and made things interesting because the Lady Flames led in the other three matches (No. 3, No. 4 and No. 6 singles.

Dollar led Ulyashchenko in the No. 3 slot by a set and a game before the match was called. The match concluded 7-6 (8-6), 4-3, unfinished. The same was the case for Crist in her No. 4 showdown against Zalewkski. The Liberty junior led by a set before the match ended 7-6 (5), 3-3, unfinished.

Hassey and Fernandez were tied at a set apiece at No. 6 singles, but Hassey was in control with a 4-1 set three lead. The match concluded, 1-6, 6-1, 4-1, unfinished.

If Liberty would have won each of those three matches and Groeneveld had forced a third set, it would have come down to a dramatic third set between her and Carter.

The Lady Flames hung close with a strong Wake Forest team on Saturday in Winston-Salem, N.C.
"I'm really proud of how composed we were today. Wake Forest is one of the better teams in the country, and yet we were not intimidated. We believed in ourselves and stuck to our plan," stated Liberty Head Women's Tennis Coach Jeff Maren. "Wake played a little better than us in a handful of points, and that was the difference. This match will boost our confidence and belief that we can play at the next level."

The Lady Flames now head to Knoxville, Tenn. for a Sunday matchup with the Vols (7-1) at 3 p.m. at the Goodfriend Tennis Center.

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